Hot Tea, by Emily Bliss

The old necromancer lived in an adobe house along the side of the highway, drinking tea

with heavy cream and awaiting the day his powers might return. He’d lost them, long ago, when

his mother had told him to hush and to stop summoning ghosts that came up from behind and

scared her while she drank her morning mug of scalding hot tea. He didn’t mean to scare her, and

he felt terrible as he watched her mop up the steaming tea, the kettle hissing as it prepared a

replacement. The ghosts would hustle away into the shadows of the kitchen cupboard and

disappear out into the pipes, where they would float away through the chimney and out into the

wide world. He had only tried to summon a friend.

It was one particular morning that she had lost it, as the ice cold brushing of a ghost’s

shoulder against her own sent her mug clattering to the linoleum floor before she even had the

time to add sugar. She wheeled around with fists red from steam, and denounced the boy then

and there, demanding that his powers ought to pack up and leave and find another child to take

hold of, because no son of hers was allowed to disturb her morning tea, much less have ghosts

running about her house. The young boy tried and tried each day to summon a ghost from the

next world, a friend to accompany him in the dreary house in the middle of the Midwest plains,

but his mother’s curse had rendered him useless, a necromancer in name only.

The necromancer, a title he refused to ever shed, had now in his old age taken a liking to

morning cups of tea, diluted with such large quantities of cold heavy cream that it was

indistinguishable from a pure mug of cream, perhaps with a hint of tea essence if one’s tongue

was sensitive enough to find it. Hot tea only reminded him of his mother’s wrath, steam rising

from the stains of tea across the kitchen floor, and the fateful day in which she had removed his

powers forever. He wasn’t even sure if heavy cream was something one drank with tea, but it

tasted fine to him and that was all that mattered.

One chilly morning the necromancer climbed out of his sleeping bag, positioned on the

roof of his adobe house, and routinely set about to prepare his morning cup of heavy cream with

a hint of tea, putting the kettle on and expectantly searching the ice box for his prized gallon of

cream, only to discover he had run out the previous morning and in his absent-mindedness that

had come with the onset of age he had neglected to go fetch more. The woodpeckers had yet to

sing, and it was only after they had sung their morning strains of jazz that the drugstore down the

interstate would open. The kettle shrieked, rattling the adobe house, and the old necromancer

retrieved his chipped mug that had come from his mother’s house so long ago, and resigned

himself to the sight of the steam rising from the kettle, with no splashes of cream to soothe the

ringlets that floated into his kitchen. Shaking, he poured a cup of scalding hot tea into the mug,

and quite suddenly a cold hand laid itself upon his bony shoulder, and in his shock the mug went

cascading across the dirt floor, hot tea splashing across his bare feet, and in his wrinkled ears

came the whispers of his mother’s ghost-

“Now you understand” she hissed.

-Emily Bliss